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Melaye: His incarceration and likely political consequences

By Ralph Omololu Agbana, Lokoja
13 January 2019   |   3:20 am
About a month to the February 16 presidential and National Assembly polls, one issue that is likely to shape the election in Kogi West Senatorial District, nay Kogi State is the travail of Dino Melaye, one of the three senators from the state. Although he represents Kogi West, his running battles with Governor Yahaya Bello…


About a month to the February 16 presidential and National Assembly polls, one issue that is likely to shape the election in Kogi West Senatorial District, nay Kogi State is the travail of Dino Melaye, one of the three senators from the state.

Although he represents Kogi West, his running battles with Governor Yahaya Bello and by extension, federal authorities, have far reaching implications for the polls beyond his basic constituency.

Melaye’s constituents, as it turned out in the current four years, include the masses of underpaid workers in Kogi State civil service, who found in him a voice. 

For this, his current ordeal, as was the case with him for most of last year in the hands of the police, is a matter of interest to the entire people of Kogi State, which has the tendency of rubbing off on the elections.

After eight days in solitary confinement, Melaye, on the fourth day of January, surrendered himself to the police that had laid siege to his Sangha Street home in Maitama, Abuja, and was immediately arrested.

He is said to have stabilised in the Abuja police hospital, after appearing to be in a coma at the point of his arrest and is expected to appear in court in the days ahead to face alleged charges of homicide. Melaye’s lawyers had filed for an injunction restraining the police from arresting him.

Police Public Relations Officer, DCP Jimoh Moshood said Senator Melaye was wanted for criminal conspiracy and attempted culpable homicide, committed on July 19, 2018, when “Melaye and his armed thugs attacked police personnel, shot and wounded SGT Danjuma Saliu on stop and search duty along Aiyetoro Gbede, Mopa Road in Kogi State.”

He said the police officer was yet to recover from the gunshot injury he sustained during the attack and was still under intensive medical care.

He accused Melaye of failure to honour police invitation and decided to lock himself in, following the arrival of police investigation team at his residence.

Moshood said: “Senator Dino Melaye is currently in Police custody for investigation, and subsequently, taken to Police Hospital Abuja, for medical attention and he is in stable condition.

Investigation into the case of criminal conspiracy and attempted culpable homicide against him is ongoing. The case will be taken to court on completion of investigation.”

On July 19, 2018, the embattled lawmaker took to his social media account, where he posted a video of his bullet-ridden vehicle he alleged was shot at by officers of the Nigeria Police in an attempt to allegedly kill him, while travelling within Kogi State.

The Kogi State Police Command had fired back, alleging that the senator deliberately twisted the facts of the matter, as it was his security aides that shot and injured a police sergeant first.

Melaye, however, insisted that his security aides never fired at the police.

It would be recalled that Melaye spent most of 2018 in serial battles with the police. In April 2018, he allegedly attempted jumping off a moving police truck, while being driven to Lokoja, his home state capital for prosecution over a litany of criminal charges. He was later hospitalised. 

While in the hospital, a court ordered his recall him from the National Assembly, following a purported collation of the percentage of signatures required for the exercise to commence.

The recall exercise failed woefully, as only five percent of the signatures were verified by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC.)

While Melaye was still in hiding, former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and Director General, Dino Melaye Campaign Organisation (DMCO), Chief Shola Ojo denied police allegation that Melaye was on the run from law and justice.

He said: “We don’t want to say much because the cases are already in court. But we are of the conviction that our candidate is innocent and that he will be vindicated in the end. What he has always demanded of them (police) was protection. If assured of his protection, he will be ready to submit himself to the police immediately. But you know the politics behind this, and the risk to his life turning himself in to sworn enemies. He has repeatedly cried out that his life was in constant danger.”

The implication of the legal battles is that the senator, the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate in the senate election in Kogi West district is condemned to miss the electioneering campaign, and will probably not be around for his election. 
Without prejudice to legalities and the outcome of court proceedings, despite that Melaye has not been sighted in Kogi since July last year; he has remained a strong contender for the senate election.

The election is a two-way horse between the PDP and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). 

Political watchers are of the consensus that the lawmaker’s absence before or during the election would not affect his chances at the polls. They cited the cases of Senator Iyiola Omisore and former Governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji, who were elected while incarcerated.

The symphonies that came with Dino’s incarceration are seen as being to his advantage. A few others, however, believe that the momentum might have been slowed down by Melaye’s absence.

A survey by The Guardian shows that Melaye’s unavailability for campaign may have gingered his supporters to redouble their campaign efforts towards securing a historic victory for the detained flag bearer.

The Dino Melaye Campaign Organisation (DMCO) at Kabba recently inaugurated various committees and directorates and deputy director generals for each of the three federal constituencies and local government coordinators.

The team, supported by PDP chairmen in the seven local governments, is set to hit the ground running on Monday, according to the chairman, media directorate, Bawa Yakubu.

Last Saturday, all the who is who in PDP from the seven local governments in Kogi West gathered at the Iyah-Gbedde Ijumu Local Government country home of former military Governor of old Oyo State, General David Jemibewon, to deliberate on issues affecting the party in the zone ahead of next month’s general election. The meeting rose in unison to condemn the siege on the Abuja home of Melaye and his eventual arrest by the police in a most dehumanising way. It called for Melaye’s immediate release, his safety under police custody, considering allegations of past attempts on his life, warning that, “nothing must happen to him.”

They elected to mobilise Kogi West people to vote for Melaye “whether he is released from detention or not.” The leadership in the zone expressed fears that the ruling APC was out for violence and intimidation of opposition members in the state and across the country to achieve electoral victory at all cost, a situation it warned would not augur well for Nigeria’s democracy. 

The meeting bemoaned the burning of Melaye’s billboards, instigation of violence and threats to life and property, with the use of armed gangs across the state. They also expressed fears over 2019 polls and the survival of Nigeria’s democracy.

Barrister Taiwo Kola-Ojo, Senatorial Chairman, Kogi West PDP, who chaired the meeting said: “We are taking these matters seriously because we cannot fool ourselves that we are comfortable.

In view of our state of helplessness, we urge our people to watch out for the possibility of election not holding at all, and if election holds eventually, results may not be declared.

Also, the tendency of inconclusive election cannot be ruled out under this regime, and if election is declared and the result does not favour APC, will they be prepared to concede defeat? If we go to court, will they allow the judiciary play its role?

“This is why we told our people to pray fervently for Dino Melaye who is in police custody. Our people are resolute that, just like the failed recall exercise even when he was caged by the police, they will return Senator Dino Melaye in the February 16 election, whether he is released from detention or not. Fortunately, he does not have a competitor. We urge our people to pray fervently for Kogi West, to pray fervently for 2019 general elections and the survival of Nigeria after the election.”

In attendance were General Jemibewon; Barr Kola Ojo; former Secretary to Kogi State Government and Director-General Dino Melaye Campaign Organisation, Chief Shola Ojo; former Chairman Yagba East LGA and Deputy Director-General (Yagba Federal Constituency), Dino Melaye Campaign Organisation, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Salaudeen; former Finance Commissioner, Chief Biodun Ojo; former Rector, Kogi State Polytechnic Prof Idowu Ajibero; former Commissioner for Health, Dr. Stephen Olorunfemi; former Special Adviser, Special Duties to ex-President Obasanjo, Chief Tunde Olusunle; former General Manager, Planning, Research and Environment, National Inland Waterways Authority, Chief Femi Ajisafe; former PDP state Chairman, Mallam Hassan Salau; former member of the House of Representatives, Tolorunju Faniyi, Col Segun Toba (rtd), and several other dignitaries.

The PDP stakeholders resolved to back Melaye; both in his current ordeal and in his reelection bid. Past elections have shown that Kogi West is the strongest hold of PDP in the state. Until 2015 polls, when Melaye created an upset, winning the senate election on APC platform, PDP had produced all senators and two of the three members of the House of Representatives and majority of the state House of Assembly members, since 1999. 

As the February 16 polls beckon, PDP bigwigs in Kogi West, who will be mobilising for Melaye include, Senator Tunde Ogbeha, former Deputy Chief of Staff (Presidency), Prince Olusola Akanmode, former Deputy Governor, Yomi Awoniyi, former speaker of Kogi Assembly and one time acting governor of the state, Chief Clarence Olafemi, former SSG, Alhaji Musa Ahmadu, members of House of Representatives representing Yagba and Kabba/Bunu/Ijumu Federal Constituencies, Hon Sunday Karimi and Hon Tajudeen Yusuf, former House of Representatives member, Hon Samuel Bamidele Aro, scion of the late former minister of national planning, Chief Silas Daniyan and Folorunsho Daniyan, among others.

Tunde Olusunle, a Special Adviser, Special Duties to former President Olusegun Obasanjo said: “Nothing better typifies the holistic immersion and mass acceptance of the PDP, in Kogi West, than the returns from the botched recall of Senator Dino Melaye, early 2018.

The failed recall exercise reaffirmed the people’s solid faith in their representative. Despite the wholesale merchandising of the process by the APC and the resort to intimidation and strong-arm tactics, that recall process returned a dismal 5.3 percent success rate.

“Kogi West’s continuing resolve to stand by the PDP and their candidates at various levels of the electoral contest in the February and March 2019 elections, was restated at a meeting of critical party stakeholders held on January 5, 2019, in Iyah-Gbedde, Ijumu local government area of Kogi State.

Specifically, the meeting stated unequivocally that even if the February 16 election were conducted with Dino Melaye in state custody, our people would vote overwhelmingly for him to reaffirm our confidence in his performance as our representative.

Olusunle said the mammoth attendance at the PDP presidential rally in Lokoja, Kogi State capital, where PDP supporters from the 21 local government areas defied visible intimidation and disinformation by the APC in the state, to receive the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and his entourage, echoed the spirit and letters of the Iyah-Gbedde meeting.

He said: “Instructively, Kogi State capital stood still for the PDP on a day the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari outsourced the management of his re-election campaign, on a day the Chief Press Secretary to the Kogi State governor, Petra Onyegbule resigned her appointment.”

Melaye shone brightly during the presidential rally attended by Atiku, Saraki and others held on Monday inside Lokoja Township Stadium, which is within Dino’s senatorial district.

With the chanting of “Dino, Dino, Dino,” “free Dino” echoing across the venue by party members, including youths and women led by Atiku, the focus of the rally appeared shifted to the demand for Dino’s release.

Although it was organised in continuation of the presidential campaign, it was more of a rally for Dino, as t-shirts, face caps and other colourful campaign souvenirs in his images adorned the venue.

It was Melaye’s birthday and the Senate President; Saraki led a loud happy birthday song for his embattled colleague.

But the APC would not be taken for a ride. APC supporters are always quick to dismiss PDP’s dominance in the zone.

Smart Adeyemi, who lost to Melaye by a slim margin in 2015, incidentally on PDP platform, is the current APC flag bearer.

Adeyemi, a two time senator, with record of good performance during his tenure between 2007 and 2015 is banking on APC’s incumbency power, which had the seven councils under the control of appointed administrators and state appointees loyal to the ruling party.

His Travails

Why should a distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria be so ignominiously subjected to a horrendous and humiliating treatment of this nature by the Nigerian Police, a civil force vested with the onerous responsibility of defending and protecting citizens’ constitutional rights?

Chairman, Media Directorate, Dino Melaye Campaign Organisation (DMCO), Bawa Yakubu, said: “It is severely disheartening and unbelievable, that a serving Senator can be so treated like a common criminal, merely on the strength of unsubstantiated criminal allegations. Recall that for eight days, Senator Dino Melaye was unduly subjected to series of intimidation, torments, including laying siege to his residence, thereby denying him access to his medicine, his family, personal aides, his lawyers and personal physician.

How he feeds in this embattled state is not of any concern to the police, as it’s alleged that they were under a tall order to fetch him by hook or crook, meaning dead or alive! But why did the police bombard Dino’s home with excessive teargas, if not with the intent to suffocate him to death as alleged?”

He said Melaye’s only sin against his avowed traducers stemmed from the fact that he chose to ally with the poor and the voiceless, instead of allowing himself to be a surrogate of the executive arm; and his defection from APC to PDP.

He said: “Dino is being hounded because of his rattling defection to the PDP from APC on the floor of the Senate, which stimulated more defections of his colleagues to the opposition. This obviously led to a sharp decline in APC membership and strength, which in turn affected their initial dominant position. Consequently, their capacity to pull through and pass motions and bills in the Senate was greatly hampered.

“Dino was, therefore, fingered as their nemesis. This was more so, when their several attempted plots to replace Saraki with Senator Lawan, woefully collapsed on their faces, like a pack of cards. It was obvious that Dino’s calculated and timely decampment, with its attendant tsunami effect on his colleagues, provided the needed antidote that toned down and aborted their unquenchable dream of Senate presidency, at the expense of Dr. Bukola Saraki. From the foregoing, it is glaring why they are desperately using the police to frequently harass, trail and arrest with the intent to cow him into submission.”

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